Funds for cannabis testing still on El Paso budget

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Budget season is nearly complete and a $72,000 request from the El Paso Police Department for cannabis testing remains on the table for next year’s expenses.

The El Paso City Council is set to hold a public hearing for the tax rate on Tuesday morning, which can be viewed at 9 a.m on the city’s YouTube channel. Members of the public can still sign-up to share their thoughts and comments on the 2022 budget on the city’s website.

El Pasoans will be able to comment on various aspects of the 2022 budget, including the adopted tax rate, expenses, and other aspects of next year’s finances. Residents will also be able to comment on the controversial proposal brought forth by the police.

Earlier this year, the EPPD introduced a proposal for $72,000 in additional funding to cover the costs of testing for THC. Police officials say the request is in response to a letter from the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office requiring testing to pursue all marijuana cases.

“The reason why they’re doing this is because it doesn’t fund them to test misdemeanor amounts of marijuana, right now, the state is only funding to test felony amounts of flower. They can’t even test concentrates right now,” said Colt DeMorris, the executive director of El Paso NORML, a local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which advocates for the reformation of marijuana laws.

Though most major cities and counties in Texas have adopted more lenient practices on low-level marijuana cases, El Paso has continued a more hardline approach, despite the City Council adopting a “cite and release” approach to misdemeanor levels of marijuana possession.

Throughout the state, prosecutors have tossed low-level marijuana cases or held off on criminal charges due to changes in hemp laws and the lack of testing resources.

Two City Council representatives have shown objection to the police department’s proposal saying it is a stark contrast to the “cite and release’ policy,” in which residents are ticketed for the offense of possessing small trace amounts of marijuana and are kept out of jail.

An early review of the practice has shown most cases involved teens and young adults.

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